New Delhi, India
November 2, 2009
Entering the grand and glittery lobby of The Residency Towers, I feel my heart sink. The lobby is of the quintessential ‘grand Indian hotel’ variety: all gilt and marble and granite. Everything sparkles and I have the creepy feeling that the receptionist’s sparkly smile is as fake as the golden gleam on the chandelier.
But no, it isn’t. This guy’s efficient, but he’s got a sense of humour too. "Your friend checked in earlier," he tells me. (Anurima, the publicity manager who was with me in Kolkata and has arrived in Chennai from Kolkata while I’ve been away in Mumbai). "She looked at four rooms for you before she decided on which one would be suitable for you," he adds with a grin.
The bellboy who escorts me up to my room is equally friendly and asks if I had a good flight, and where I’ve come from. The room he leads me to is large, clean and comfortable, though furnished in the style that I’ve seen in the lobby. The bigger and brighter, the better: that’s the motto here. Against pale yellow walls and blonde wood dados, there’s a forest green padded headboard and similarly padded panels on sliding doors that shut out the windows. The bed’s large (this is a double room), with four fluffy pillows and very clean sheets. The blanket, though sandwiched between sheets, is a dark brown that I am immediately suspicious of, but what the heck. There’s a wardrobe, mini bar, fresh fruit, mineral water and tea/coffee fixings, besides the usual plethora of chairs and tables, luggage rack, TV and whatnot.
The bathroom is roomy and looks clean. There’s a large shower cubicle without a bathtub but with a plastic bucket and mug, since many Indians are used to that. The pressure of the water is a little wonky and I end up having to keep one of the knobs pressed if I want the water to keep flowing.
The Residency Towers obviously believes in catering to every possible need of a guest, and the bathroom crawls with amenities. There is, of course, soap, shampoo, conditioner, and moisturiser—but there’s also a comb, shaving cream and razor, toothbrush and toothpaste, and (this got me very curious) a small packet coyly labelled ‘for your care’. I wonder for a while what it contains. Tampons? Condoms? I finally succumb to temptation and open the pack for a peek. A strip of emery paper, a Band-Aid and a pair of cotton ear buds greets me. Ha-ha!
But onto the other facilities. The Residency Towers, as their in-room brochure explains, offers banqueting and conference facilities, gym, pool, spa and salon, baby sitting, laundry, a bookshop (they haven’t received my book yet: it’ll come in a couple of days’ time), a business centre, chemist, florist, and arrangements for everything from courier facilities to a doctor. There’s room service; a 24-hour coffee shop called Main Street (this is next to the lobby and is where we’re to go for the breakfast buffet included in the tariff); a South Indian restaurant called Southern Aromas; a ‘rest-o-bar’ called Bike & Barrel; a multicuisine rooftop restaurant, The Crown; and the Residency Club Lounge, exclusively for guests staying on levels 17, 18 and 19.
For dinner (on two nights out of the three we spend at the hotel) Anurima and I go to The Crown for dinner. This combines chandeliers and muted maroon wallpaper in a faux Regency style decor; beyond it is the terrace, fringed by a curving pool that meets the glittering horizon of Chennai by night. Both nights, we manage to get a table beside the pool, and it’s lovely. The dinner’s not quite so lovely. At our first meal, my bowl of Italian seafood broth, though made with very fresh fish (and a single ring of calamari) is watery. Anurima’s plate of spaghetti with mushrooms and olives in cream sauce has the unexpected addition of a tiny chip of porcelain. The waiter’s profusely apologetic—he offers to change the dish (Anurima was anyway near the end of the meal, so declines). The manager doesn’t bill Anurima for her meal, and has a plate of fruit placed at our table to compensate.
Our experiences at the coffee shop are much better. They lay on a huge spread for breakfast: doughnuts, croissants, muffins, cake, sausages, bacon, eggs, cheeses, ham, potatoes, juices, fruit, cereals, and an array of North Indian and South Indian dishes: appams with vegetable and coconut milk stew; idiappams (known as string hoppers in Sri Lanka) with coconut milk, idlis and vadas with sambhar and about five types of chutney, utthappams, upma, parathas and the excellent ‘filter coffee’ that is the most widely drunk beverage in most of South India. The lunch buffet is equally vast and good.
Though we have some unfortunate experiences here (that bit of porcelain in Anurima’s food, and the fact that the hairdryer in her bathroom catches fire one morning), this wasn’t a bad hotel as far as I was concerned. At Rs 5,200 per night (inclusive of that very filling breakfast) I thought it pretty good value for money. But yes, it made me steer clear of hairdryers after that.
From journal India on the Fly: On Book Tour